AI vs. the EHS manager

Environmental, health, and safety (EHS) managers are responsible for developing, implementing, and monitoring programs designed to protect employees, the public, and the environment. In some cases, EHS managers are also responsible for...

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January 23, 2024
5 mins

Environmental, health, and safety (EHS) managers are responsible for developing, implementing, and monitoring programs designed to protect employees, the public, and the environment. In some cases, EHS managers are also responsible for managing compliance with government regulations.

 The day-to-day duties of an EHS manager vary depending on the size and scope of the organization. However, there are some typical duties that all EHS managers perform. An EHS manager must be able to wear many hats and have a deep understanding of environmental law and business operations to succeed. 

They must effectively communicate with employees at all organizational levels to foster a safety culture. In addition, they must have strong problem-solving skills to identify and correct deficiencies in the EHS program quickly.

What Are the 4 Main Responsibilities of an EHS Manager?

EHS managers play a pivotal role in modern workplaces, ensuring the health and safety of the workforce and the public. Their expertise spans various aspects of safety management, from developing safety protocols to ensuring compliance with environmental laws.

Their comprehensive approach to EHS management involves strategic planning, effective communication, and continuous improvement in safety practices. This all-encompassing role requires them to be adept in various disciplines, making them key players in maintaining safe and compliant working environments.

  1. Developing and Implementing Programs:

EHS managers develop programs designed to protect employees and the environment, which may include training initiatives on personal protective equipment usage and emergency preparedness plans. These efforts aim to reduce the risk of injury and create a safe working environment.

Their job is to look at the company’s existing safety plans, identify significant safety threats, and take steps to mitigate them. From creating safe systems of work (SSoW) to finding ways to add redundancies, they are responsible for developing various plans to help reduce the risk of injury and make the workplace safer. 

  1. Conducting Inspections:

EHS managers conduct regular inspections of facilities to identify potential hazards. EHS managers collaborate with facility managers to address identified threats. 

The job of an EHS manager has significantly changed over the past few years, as they use conventional ethnographic approaches to conduct safety observations of how work is done, review data gathered by another party, and identify critical areas of improvement. 

As work has become increasingly complex, many EHS managers have infused technology into their workflows, often relying on AI to identify key data points that could help them make critical decisions. 

  1. Compliance Monitoring:

EHS managers use data from audits and inspections to monitor compliance with internal policies and external regulations. EHS managers work with employees to correct non-compliance when they discover it. 

This is critically important as one of the core responsibilities of an EHS manager is to ensure that the company complies with safe work practices and industry regulations. If, for instance, authorities regulate safety policies or accepted environmental procedures and find the company in breach, heavy fines pose a risk.

  1. Investigating Incidents:

When incidents occur, EHS managers are responsible for investigating them. EHS managers collect evidence, interview witnesses, and prepare reports during an investigation. Based on their findings, EHS managers make recommendations to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

 

The aim of investigating incidents is never to punish the party at fault. It’s to identify what went wrong, how it went wrong, and then look at ways to ensure that it never happens again. Many EHS managers now use technology to record incident investigations and various modeling techniques to analyze incidents.

What is AI’s Impact on Workplace Safety?

Accidents can not only lead to injuries and deaths, but they can also be costly in terms of productivity, insurance, and workers’ compensation claims.

That’s why more and more EHS managers are turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to help improve workplace safety. Here are many ways EHS managers can use AI to improve workplace safety.

Analyzing Safety Data

One of the most critical ways AI can improve workplace safety is by analyzing data related to past accidents. This data can identify patterns and trends that could indicate potential hazards. 

For example, suppose there have been several accidents involving a particular type of machinery. In that case, AI can determine whether the machinery is faulty or if some other issue needs addressing. By identifying these patterns, businesses can correct the problem before another accident occurs.

Protex uses machine learning to analyze data from security cameras and identify potential risks. It can send alerts to relevant authorities so they can prevent accidents before they happen.

To explore how AI is transforming incident prevention strategies, delve into our whitepaper on Using AI to reduce incidents in the workplace.

Monitoring Employee Behavior

AI is improving workplace safety by monitoring employee behavior. Sensors monitor the frequency of an employee breaking safety protocols or being involved in an accident.

AI algorithms can then analyze the data collected by these sensors to identify potential safety concerns. For example, if employees constantly break safety protocols, they may be putting themselves and others at risk.

By identifying these employees, businesses can provide additional training or reassign them to a different job where they will be less likely to cause an accident. Monitoring and research also utilize advanced technologies like computer vision or video content analysis.

For instance, AI-powered cameras can track employee behavior, raise an alarm, or send a warning when employees breach safety protocols. The system learns over time as it receives more data and becomes more accurate.

Improving Training Programs

Regarding training programs, research shows that AI’s impact on occupational safety is significant, guiding EHS managers in developing effective training strategies.

For example, if there have been several accidents involving a particular type of machinery, AI can help determine what kind of training would most effectively prevent future accidents. 

Furthermore, AI can assist businesses in identifying when existing employees may need additional training by constantly monitoring employee behavior.

The data insights it unlocks can prove critical for EHS managers when devising organizational safety plans.

How are EHS Managers Across Different Industries Adopting AI?

While increasing companies are now embracing advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, it’s still very much at an early adopter stage.

Generally, large-scale organizations or industries with higher inherent safety risks limit the use of AI for safety performance. These are also the industries where EHS teams are harnessing the maximum value from AI technology:

Construction Industry

In the construction industry, workers use webcams equipped with AI to monitor themselves and identify unsafe behavior, such as not wearing a hard hat or not correctly securing equipment.

The AI system then alerts a supervisor, who can take corrective action. AI-powered surveillance of this type is expected to help reduce accidents and injuries in the construction industry.

Mining Industry

The mining industry is also using AI to improve safety. For example, AI surveillance cameras monitor conditions and detect movement in areas authorities deem exclusion zones or restrict.

Experts analyze the data collected by these cameras to provide insights on improving safety in the mines. Furthermore, companies are utilizing GPS tracking systems to track the location of miners and send alerts if they enter unsafe areas.

Manufacturing Industry

AI safety platforms are also playing a role in improving workplace safety in the manufacturing industry. Robotics companies use AI to create robots that can work alongside humans without harming them. 

For example, some companies have developed robots to assist workers with lifting heavy objects. The robot uses sensors and cameras to avoid bumping into or crushing humans. Other companies are using robots equipped with lasers and sensors to perform dangerous tasks such as cleaning vats of hot oil.

EHS teams often find it challenging to monitor workplace conditions in these industries. Due to the dynamic and fast-paced nature of work in such sectors and the increased risk of injury in case something goes wrong, EHS teams traditionally have only relied on historical data and retrospective steps.

 With AI, they can now take a more proactive approach to improving workplace conditions and mitigate the risks associated with different work practices.

 

Logistics and Supply Chain Industry

Companies are leveraging AI to enhance safety in the logistics industry. Automated vehicles and drones are being used for transportation and delivery, reducing the risk of accidents and injuries associated with manual transport.

 AI algorithms analyze traffic patterns and optimize routes for safety and efficiency. Furthermore, AI-driven systems actively monitor warehouse operations, ensuring they adhere to safety protocols and identify potential hazards in real-time.

Waste Management Industry

AI is revolutionizing safety in the waste management industry. AI-based systems sort and handle hazardous materials, minimizing human exposure to dangerous substances. These systems can detect and categorize waste, ensuring proper disposal and reducing environmental risks. 

Additionally, AI assists in monitoring landfill operations and managing the health risks associated with waste processing, contributing to a safer and more efficient waste management process.

What are the Benefits of Using AI for EHS Managers?

AI can help EHS managers in several ways, from reducing time spent on mundane tasks to identifying risks that human beings might miss. Environmental, health, and safety (EHS) is ripe for transformation through artificial intelligence.

Here are the seven most important benefits of using AI for EHS management:

  1. Advanced Risk Detection: AI analyzes data from various sources, uncovering hidden risks and predicting potential incidents before they occur.
  2. Streamlined Incident Reporting: AI systems swiftly detect and report incidents, facilitating quicker response and reducing the chances of further accidents.
  3. Real-Time Compliance Monitoring: AI constantly checks for compliance deviations, enabling immediate corrective measures to meet ongoing safety standards.
  4. Data-Driven Decision Making: With AI, EHS managers make informed decisions based on comprehensive data analysis, enhancing safety strategies.
  5. Employee Behavior Analysis: AI tools monitor employee safety practices, identify risky behaviors, and facilitate targeted training interventions.
  6. Automated Hazard Identification: AI swiftly identifies potential hazards in the workplace, reducing reliance on manual inspections and increasing overall safety.
  7. Enhanced Training Programs: AI assists in tailoring training programs by analyzing past incidents, ensuring that employees are educated on the most relevant safety practices.

How Can AI and EHS Managers Work Together to Improve Risk Management?

A common misconception is that AI might make the job of an EHS manager redundant. AI tools like Protex AI improve the careers of EHS managers by empowering them with critical information. 

EHS managers can use this information to make safety decisions that impact the company and every stakeholder.

For a deeper understanding of this synergy, our EHS webinar provides valuable insights into how AI reshapes EHS management.

  • Leveraging AI for Enhanced Data Analysis:

Large-scale organizations now use AI tools to gather and analyze data from multiple sources. As these tools continue to become more and more accurate, EHS teams can devise more effective policies that are not just cost-efficient but markedly improved over previous ones.

  • AI Tools vs. Traditional Methods in Safety Monitoring:

For instance, in the case of lone worker monitoring, AI tools have proven to be vastly more beneficial than older approaches like, say, the “buddy system.” It ensures accuracy in reporting and tracking and allows organizations to see whether employees follow safety protocols and what actions they can take to enforce specific policies.

Case Study - AI and EHS Management in Action

Marks & Spencer, a leading UK retailer with a global presence, faced significant workplace safety challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic. With rapid scaling up at their Economic Distribution Centre, the risk of injuries increased due to the influx of on-site personnel.

  • AI Implementation:

To address these challenges, M&S implemented Protex AI, our AI-powered safety tool, directly integrated with their existing CCTV network. This solution enabled autonomous monitoring and event capture, even without on-site EHS teams.

  • Results:

The introduction of Protex AI led to a 40% immediate reduction in unsafe events. Following this, M&S saw an 80% decrease in safety incidents over three months. The AI’s effectiveness in identifying and tagging potential safety issues was crucial in these improvements.

Advancing Workplace Safety through AI Integration

Adopting AI in environmental, health, and safety (EHS) management marks a significant advancement in workplace safety. Protex AI revolutionizes how we monitor, analyze, and mitigate risks, leading to more innovative and proactive safety practices.

The synergy between AI and human intelligence reshapes safety standards, fostering safer work environments across industries.

AI’s integration into EHS strategies heralds a new era in safety and compliance, setting a foundation for a future where security is integral to organizational operations.

This collaborative approach between AI and EHS expertise is not just improving current safety measures - it’s setting a foundation for a future where safety is an integral part of organizational operations.

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